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Easter Holidays, part one.

I spent the first week of the Easter holidays in Dresden, visiting Manda, who you may remember from several posts before Christmas. As always, it was epic, especially as when one has a whole week to play with, one can do so much more stuff.

So I got there on the Monday and after chilling in Manda’s new flat for a while, we went back to her old flat, because she’d been invited for tea and her old flatmates very kindly invited me as well. It was lots of fun, especially with a German language only rule imposed, that one of the German guys flagrantly disregarded. The highlight of the evening was definitely me and Manda letting England down, when neither of us knew that you’re meant to leave the tops of asparagus on. Seriously, who knows these kinds of things?

Tuesday was a very chilled out kind of day. After first going via an English foodstuffs shop and a bakery, we sat in the park for ages, soaking up the sunshine. Then we went to the military museum, which had lots of swords and armour and interesting things. In the evening we went out, having fantastic cocktails in various bars, before going to student night at Katy’s Garage. Totally didn’t end up on the dance floor because of Call Me Maybe. No. Never.

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A fabulous helmet

On Wednesday, we shopped.

And then in the evening we went to the cinema. So one of the Dresden cinema’s does a “sneak peak” showing of a film soon to come out, which is what we were at. We saw Legend of Hercules. Don’t bother. Seriously, seriously, don’t bother. It’s terrible and not even in a good way.

Thursday was a day of adventure. We went to the Kulturinsel Einsiedel, which describes itself as a theme park without the rides. What it actually is, is awesome. There’s a wizard’s word and an enchanter’s castle, treehouses at every corner and tunnels running underneath the site. I’m not sure pictures really do it justice.

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The wizard’s wood.

 

We had a lot of fun exploring and moaning about how many kids were there. There’s a festival there in summer, which looks like insane amounts of fun, and you can even stay there in treehouses. It was crazy good fun and just…yes. Though I don’t think Manda’s ever going to forgive me for suggesting we climb the windmill and go through the connecting tunnels. They perhaps weren’t built with twenty one year olds in mind.

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Crawling through a wire tunnel several feet above the ground was actually scarier than i expected.

On Friday we went and sat by the Elbe for a couple of hours, which I think was something we managed to do almost every day. Friday was special in that I fell asleep for a good hour. Did I mention the weather was beautiful the whole week? When I’d actually woken up, we headed to Zwinger, which is a palace in the old town. Nowadays it houses an art museum, that we did not go into, but we did look at the postcards, so same thing, right?

Following our cultural excursion, we made apple crumble and then we went to a restaurant whose name I have totally blanked on. It began with a V. And it was like Subway for pasta. Delicious, cheapish and they make it in front of you. Though that last one is a little awkward, especially when the chef is cute and bored.

Saturday we chilled, sat by the Elbe and then I headed back to Ilmenau. Where the weather was most definitely not beautiful. But Dresden was so much fun, though as ever, it was down to the company.

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Seriously. So Much Easter

So Monday was spent not doing a fat lot. I really don’t remember what I did particularly. I assume tutoring prep like every week. Mondays are not the most interesting days.

In my first class on Tuesday, we sang a song about spring time and then the kids made a book out of a work sheet about eggs (because it’s Easter). It then turned out that neither of the other English teachers were in school, so I wasn’t needed for the rest of the day.

Tutoring was on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week, because of reasons. The kids told me what happened in Fanastic Mr Fox, and we did some colouring and a wordsearch and it was generally fairly chilled. Then I pelted it home to get to the Café meeting on time.

My first lesson on Wednesday was cancelled because of an absent teacher. So in my second class I was in the class I’m not normally in, where we made Easter cards. My third class was also cancelled, and then my fourth class was making Easter cards again.

Thursday I did German with class 3/4c on the computers, which they proclaimed super easy, and I was actually, for once, inclined to agree with them. And thus ended the term. Which I’m super happy about, not because I hate school or anything, but 1) I need to catch up on sleep, and 2) it means I get to see Dad in two weeks.

Thursday afternoon, I actually went to the BC café not for a shift but to actually use it as a café, which was novel. And also pretty cool.

Friday, I forgot it was Good Friday, until Facebook reminded me, so I spent most of the day watching Game of Thrones series 1. Seeing as everyone seems to be talking about the new series which I can’t watch yet, I wanted to feel a little involved. Also, Game of Thrones.

Saturday, I realised an hour before all the shops closed that I actually needed to buy things in town, so got dressed in three minutes and legged it. Made it, bought things and then spent the rest of the day watching Game of Thrones series 2.

Easter Sunday I realised I had no Easter eggs. To get over that, I packed my suitcase, ‘cause I’m headed to Dresden tomorrow to see the ever lovely Manda. 

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All Christmassed out.

So this weekend I was in Dresden. Me and Manda spent quite a while trying to figure out how many times I’ve been to Dresden and it turns out only three, and one of those times was for one night on my way to Prague. So although it feels like I’ve been there a billion and one times, the real number is actually considerably less.
Friday was a school free day so I was on a train at 12 and arrived in Dresden at 4pm. Had a wander round what I thought was the Christmas Market and then headed to Neustadt to meet Manda, who callously had work so couldn’t meet me as soon as I got off the train.
Friday night was originally designated as Game of Thrones and pizza night. That didn’t happen, but only because Manda’s mentor teacher was lovely enough to invite us both to her boyfriend’s work do. Yes, she invited the random English girl she’d never met (that’s me) to her boyfriend’s work’s Christmas party. It was at a Mongolian bar and the way it worked was interesting. You went up to the serving area and picked out what vegetables and meat/fish/tofu you wanted and then you handed it over to the chefs. About a kazillion years later, it was served to your table having now being cooked. The food was really good, don’t get me wrong, it just took them so long to cook it.
In terms of what I ate, first there was a red curry soup which burned the back of my throat and made steam come out of my ears. And then I tried crocodile – tastes an awful lot like chicken but springier – and shark which just tastes like cod. There were other interesting meats like kanagroo and rabbit, and even more that I didn’t have a clue what they were. But I grossed Manda out enough with the crocodile and shark so I figured I should stop. Also, we were then offered ice cream and there’s no way I’m going to turn down ice cream in favour of kanagroo. All in all it was a really fun excursion, and Manda’s mentor teacher was super nice. And then we watched Game of Thrones when we got home.
Saturday was a day of Christmas markets. You know I said I thought I’d wandered round the  Christmas market? Yeah, no. That was one of many Christmas markets in Dresden. On Saturday we visited four. Four. The Augustusmarkt, the Mittelalter Weihnachstmarkt, the Striezelmarkt and one by the Frauenkirche. The Augustusamarkt is in the Neustadt and is one of the smaller ones. Small doesn’t mean bad though. There was glühwein and toffee apples and stalls from Latvia and a hut that told you how many miles it was to Coventry. And so many fairylights. There was a supercool tree in the middle of it.

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The super cool tree and a ginger girl who I seem to have a few photos of.

The Mittelaltermarkt was my favourite. We had to pay to get in because it was the weekend, but when the door is guarded by a guy in armour I feel like it’s worth it. The Mittelalter Weihnachtsmarkt included stalls selling drinking horns and weaponry and rings with intiials on so you can wax seal your letters. I did not buy any of these things despite being this close to buying a cross bow. I did how ever appropriate the beaker we got served hot chocolate it in, because it’s fantastic.

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It has a unicorn on it. A unicorn!

The Striezelmarkt aka the actual main Weihnachtsmarkt in Dresden was heaving. So much so that when we headed into the McDonalds nearby, I queued for half an hour/45 minutes to use their toilets. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest queue I have ever had the misfortune to be in. Also, a word to the men of the world: If the queue for the female toilets is out of the door, do not boast about the fact that there’s no queue for the male toilets. The only thing stopping every woman in that queue from pummeling you to death is the fact that to do that they’d have to step out of the queue and all their waiting would have been in vain.

But the Striezelmarkt was awesome. We met up with a couple of other FSA (Fremdsprachassistenten)  who are also based near Dresden. It was dark by the time we got to it, and so all the fairy lights were on and there were people everywhere and then a nearby church’s bells started pealing and it was all kinds of awesome. Once more there was Glühwein galore and it was fantastic. When we headed to the market by the Frauenkirche, the theme of the decorations suddenly became stars, which was super cool. We didn’t spend too much time at that market mainly because by this time we were cold and starting to be a little bit christmassed out. Or at least I was, I can’t really speak for the others.  We ended up at a pub where I managed to order the manliest rink. Dark beer – it’s better than light beer.

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So many lights. I totally didn’t get over excited. Nope.

On Sunday, me and Manda went to Dresden zoo. I haven’t been to a zoo in close on a decade, so that was pretty cool. Flamingos are way pinker than I ever expected. And red pandas (or small pandas as the Germans call them) are the cutest things in the world. They’re a fantastic colour, and the one in Dresden was kinda chubby and was all sorts of adorable. After stopping at a photo booth to take dorky photos, we headed home to finish off Season 3 of Game of Thrones before going out for an Indian for tea. How I miss Indian food.

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I feel like giraffes understand me. They’re ginger and tall too.

On Monday, I made my weary way home safe in the knowledge that I am now officially caught up with Game of Thrones (the TV series at least) and that even if I don’t make it to any other Christmas Markets, I’ve done more Christmas than I ever normally do. Though that isn’t stopping me planning on going to at least another two Weihnachtsmärkte. What? When in Rome and all that.

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Dresden, baby!

On Friday 4th October, I made the three and a half hour trip to Dresden. Prior to my trip, all I knew about Dresden was that it had been bombed, that maybe it had a cathedral and I was pretty sure it had a connection with Coventry. The other thing I knew was that Manda, a fellow language assistant who I met during training in Cologne, was spending her year there.  Making plans to go visit Manda happened very quickly, and at one point I was a little worried my train tickets wouldn’t turn up before I was due to leave. Thankfully, the stereotype of German efficiency held true, and the tickets arrived in plenty of time.

If I may take a quick thematic detour, I should point out that I rarely do stuff like this without having planned it out weeks, if not months, in advance. The internet keeps telling me that on a year abroad you should say yes to everything, with the obvious exception of climbing into the back of a stranger’s van when they offer you sweets. But I have to be honest, most things that the internet says I should have said yes to, I couldn’t afford. I’m looking at you, Oktoberfest. So I feel that an almost not quite spontaneous trip to Dresden is proof that I am trying to follow the internet’s advice – a dangerous thing at times – and that I won’t spend my entire year abroad sat in my room, watching DVDs.

So, back to Dresden. Manda was lovely enough to meet me at the station, and we caught a tram back to her flat. They have trams in Dresden – I’m so jealous. Dresden is split into the Altstadt (old town) and the Neustadt (new town), which are handily separated by the river Elbe. Manda lives in the Neustadt, so that was the area I got to see first. The amount of graffiti in the Neustadt is ridiculous. There was a lot of generic graffiti, pretty much the same as you’d see in an English town though with more anti-Nazi sentiment and much more of it. But there was also what I want to call proper street art. Mosaics covering the outside of a Mexican restaurant, butterflies flooding through a crack in a house, and plenty of stylised drawings of people.

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The very colourful Mexican restaurant.

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Butterflies making a bid for freedom.

The Neustadt feels quite studenty, probably because of the high numbers of pubs and takeaway places. It also feels young. Even though there’s a few one off shops selling wares at prices that a student budget can’t quite stretch to, most of them are aimed at, if not students, then young adults. We decided that the best way to show our maturity as twenty year olds was to buy ice cream. Mango chili was what I picked, because it sounded like it was going to be fantastic or grim. Sadly it was the latter. I did have a photo of it, but it has mysteriously disappeared from my camera, so you’ll have to do without.

Moving on from the Neustadt, we crossed one of the bridges over the Elbe and headed into the Altstadt, which is definitely the tourist attraction. Compromised of gothic architecture, towering spires and embellished domes, it’s beautiful, especially in the late afternoon light. I got a bit trigger happy with my camera and made us look like massive tourists, but it was worth it. See for yourself.

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View of the Altstadt from a bridge

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So much detail.

So after my tourist phase and a pit stop at a café to grab food, we went back to Manda’s flat, where, being the old woman that I am I asked if we could stay in, because I was shattered. Thankfully, Manda’s awesome and was fine with that, and she even let me hijack her laptop to use the wifi. How I’ve missed wifi.

Our plan for Saturday was to go to Leipzig. Both of us wanted to go, but neither of us had any idea what was there. When we finally arrived – the ICE trains are highspeed and fantastic, whilst the local trains are… a little slower – we had a look at the map, worked out we were pretty near the centre of town and spotted that there was a museum of the town’s history. Equipped with ice cream from the station, we headed in. (Mine was called ‘himmelblau’ aka blue skies. Apparently the sky tastes like bubblegum.)

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I have so many pictures of ice cream from this weekend.

Wandering through Leipzig was very pleasant, especially when we encountered a market. It felt like a Christmas market, and probably had about as many stalls as the Birmingham German Christmas Market. After the market we finally found the museum. Immediately we messed up by trying to go in without paying. In our defence, it didn’t say anywhere that you had to pay. Six euros and one disgruntled cashier later, we were free to look round. The exhibition on was about German Heroes, possibly ones coming from Leipzig. I’m not entirely sure. I have no idea what order the boards were meant to be presented in, but the way they were meant it was super confusing. Chronologically speaking, it jumped all over the place, going from the 1970s, to the Napoleonic era, to Hitler. Ah, well, I’m sure it makes sense to the curator.

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The coolest looking cafe.

After deciding that ice-cream was the best course of action after being confused, we both had Spaghetti Eis. I’m sure any of you who’ve met me in person are aware of my love for Spaghetti Eis, and Leipzig did not disappoint. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Spaghetti Eis is ice cream made to look like spaghetti. That’s it. That’s all it is. But is also one of the best things in the world. If I could have one wish, it would be that you could buy Spaghetti Eis in England. That or world peace, of course.

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Ah, Spaghetti Eis. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Slightly disappointed in Leipzig, we headed back to the railway station and got on the next train to Dresden, which happened to be an ICE. We were halfway back to Dresden when the conductor told us our tickets weren’t valid on ICEs. She took pity on us, and only charged us for one ticket between the two of us, which was still €35. The moral of this story is always read your ticket, even when it has a paragraph of German on it. Especially when it has a paragraph of German on it.

That evening we headed out into the Neustadt in search of alcohol and music, which worked out pretty well. At the first bar we went to, we ordered a toblerone cocktail and one called Dragon Blood, because it had to be done. The Toblerone tasted like chocolate milkshake and if the other one is to believed, dragon’s blood tastes like a lot of alcohol.  At the second bar, Manda looked very grown up, ordering a something-tini that came in, shockingly, a martini glass, which, as everyone knows, is the epitome of elegance and sophistication. Me? Yeah, I ordered a Fairy Princess, which did not come with a tiara and a wand, which was saddening. But it tasted like something an alcoholic six year old would serve to her stuffed toys at a tea party, so it was aptly named.

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A very dark picture of me and the Fairy Princess.

Eventually, we headed to a club. It was fairly small (Notts people, I’m talking Cookie Club size dancefloor), but with two floors. The upstairs had roughly seven people there, but downstairs was much busier, so that was where we went. The music was a weird mix of English pop from three to five years ago, dubstep and rap, but it was enjoyable and danceable to. In fact, the “old” music meant I actually knew a lot of the songs, which never happens to me in clubs. Drinks wise they were charging €5 ish for a vodka and coke, but considering half the glass was filled with vodka, that kinda made sense. Despite people telling me to go to bars and clubs to meet people,  I really wouldn’t recommend it. Most, if not all, people there were German and consequently spoke German. Trying to understand drunk people speaking German in a loud nightclub is really hard. Both us managed to not understand what a guy said to us, though of course, we smiled and nodded blankly in the way that we’ve been practicing since we’ve been in Germany and only understanding half of what anyone is saying. I’m going to go ahead and assume that he was being complimentary.

After having headed home at stupid o’ clock, we spent Sunday chilling in Manda’s flat, eating pizza, discussing opinions of actors and watching Game of Thrones. (Yes, I am now watching Game of Thrones. I’ll let you know how that goes.) When we headed to the railway station so I could make my weary way back to Ilmenau, we ended up in the main shopping area. Stopping for one last ice cream, we had a wander through, shocked that the shops were open. As I’ve previously mentioned, Germany stops on Sundays. Nowt happens, nowt is open. But in Dresden it was all go. We’ve decided that it was probably because of the long weekend due to the Tag der deutschen Einheit.

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My ice-cream was Smurf flavour…

I really enjoyed my weekend in Dresden, even if Leipzig was a disappointment. Thankfully,  good company improves everything. Dresden itself is beautiful and I liked it a lot. After a month here in the countryside, with gorgeous sunsets and woods everywhere, I was wondering how I’d cope back in England, living in proper towns and cities. Turns out I’ll be just fine. It was awesome hanging out with someone my own age, who has such excellent taste in tv programmes and actors, which may have made me talk a hell of a lot, so Manda, if at times you were willing me to shut up, I do apologise.

So yeah, I’d recommend Dresden, if anyone’s debating where to visit in Germany. It’s got history and beauty, as well as all the pubs and clubs you could wish for. And a dandelion water feature. What’s not to love?

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Manda dared me to run through it. Considering the weather, I politely declined.